“Remember Thatcher’s Victims”, George Square, 17th April 2013
They planted Thatcher today. Actually, I think they burned her. Either way, I do not care, and I suspect neither does she. The BBC and most of our media and politicians seem to be eulogising her to the point that it would be more honest of them if they just stood there masturbating while shouting her name. It sickens me. This woman was anti-gay, condemned Mandela, and befriended Pinochet – and those are just the first three that spring to mind, while trying to avoid the mention of steel, and unions, and pit closures.
This was an event set up to remember the victims of her years in power, and the injustices propagated and communities blighted by her endeavours. It was not another “death party” as seen on the day the news broke, being fully organised with the agreement of the council and the attendance of the police. It would be a peaceful rally, a chance to reflect on the pain she heartlessly and relentlessly inflicted, and a call to arms to rise against the still-living Tories who continue to assault us with Thatcherism. Tories who cannot fund care for disabled people, but have no qualms about spending ten million pounds on a public funeral for a stateswoman who was extremely unpopular. That is obscene, and must be strongly condemned. As must their plan to spend fifteen million quid on a museum in her name.
When I told my friend that I was going to a protest rally, she warned me to stay safe. “It’s peaceful protesting!” I told her. “Rallying, chanting, listening, with banners and placards.”
She replied with a statement and question that amused me for the inherent absurdity that is implied: “But she is dead! What can that do?”
Indeed, what can it do? It gave me visions of protestors demanding Thatcher’s resurrection, as if that was the cause of our disquiet. Instead, I answered in a series of short sentences that – even when I come to edit this for the blog – sum up my opinion succinctly:
“She is dead, Thatcherism isn’t. The Tories continue to destroy lives with policies that do not and cannot work. This is visible dissent. That people are not happy. That we will lock arms and prevent evictions if people can’t afford the bedroom tax. That Scotland does not want, does not need, and cannot afford nuclear weapons. That the defence spending on Trident would cover ALL benefit cuts. That there is no money to prevent homelessness but they spend ten million on a funeral. That a YES vote next year will rid us of the Tories forever. Fuck them, fuck their dogma, fuck their propaganda and their lies, and fuck all they stand for. THAT is why I will be protesting”
And that is why I was protesting. I have had enough. I want my voice to be heard. I want all our voices to be heard – this government is shamelessly hypocritical, appallingly self-serving, and cruelly destructive. I will be taking every justifiable opportunity to swell ranks and provide visible evidence of discontent. We will succeed in reversing their unworkable decrees, we will oust them permanently from power by declaring ourselves independent next year, or I will gradually lose faith and heart (in whichever order) and see where life takes me. The one thing that strikes me, though, is something I posted earlier, after someone looked at a picture taken today and jokingly branded us “losers.” That is: if you don’t stand and fight for what you believe, who will?
Above: Lynne, me, and Grant. Photo: Adele McVay Photography Ltd
After three previous protests where I had held my “F_CK THE TORIES” flag aloft, struggling to fold it and grasp it against the wind to keep it readable, I knew I needed to adapt it. Either I could run some kind of weighting device along the bottom edge, to prevent it flapping loosely in the breeze, or I could use the provided channel and mount it onto a pole. This afternoon, I bought a bamboo torch in a low-price shop, cut out the torch, and then found that the diameter of the cane was too large to fit. It would affect the aesthetic to merely staple the flag down the length of the pole, and I live near to a small garden centre. I quickly nipped round there, taking the flag with me.
The proprietor was very helpful, and I explained straight away what I wanted and why. He ably assisted me, watching as I attempted to thread the flag onto the end of the pole he provided. It was finicky, but I could see that it would comfortably fit. As I persevered with it, he gestured to another customer, with whom he had been chatting at the counter. “He’s trying to read what it says,” he told me.
I looked at the other customer. “I could tell him, but he might not agree.”
“I can read it,” retorted the man, adding without malice “But you can add the other parties an’ all!”
I asked the salesman how much I owed him, anticipating it to be a few pennies, and not more than a couple of hundred. He graciously waived the cost, and I thanked him by telling him to watch out for it on the evening news. He said that I could tell them where I got the cane. True to that, and in the spirit of supporting local business, please visit Anniesland Garden Centre if you are looking for something they might have. I am not sure if it made the televised news, but the online report is here.
I headed into the town to meet my friend Grant, who was already in a pub adjacent to the square. I shy away from naming most businesses in my blogs, as I detest advertising and try to avoid helping any national corporation make money. I briefly considered naming this particular pub though, due to the incredibly rude manager I encountered there today. I shan’t be back.
I had been at the bar with Grant for twenty minutes or half an hour, and we briefly wandered over to the window to see if things had started outside. Back at the bar, leaning against it and facing the door, I was accosted from behind by a member of the staff. He was a short and stand-offish wee man, who would have looked more at home in a cap and tracksuit than in his shirt and tie. He asked me to remove my shirt, and it is to my regret that I didn’t playfully comply while whistling “The Stripper.”
Instead, I enquired why – being a rational man capable of reasoned debate, and curious as to what offence he could have taken that nobody in the local contabulary, in a handful of shops, in the streets, or in any other pub has. He belligerently told me that he “didn’t want it in is pub,” revealing himself to be the kind of Napoleon-complexed prick that life is too short (pun fully intended) to bother engaging with. I told him that I was just leaving anyway, and said that I couldn’t see what the problem was. This was all in good humour on my part, as I am interested in hearing intelligent views that challenge my own. Instead, he threw some further glares at me and ranted that there were children in his pub.
I didn’t see any children, but I also didn’t waste much time looking. I could argue that we should educate children as to why a great many of us accept and agree with the sentiment behind the “Fuck the Tories” statement – and that words are just words, it is context that gives them meaning – but the interruption from this aggressively rude interloper had already bored me. I left Grant to finish his pint, and walked out into the square. In future, I will be taking my custom to pubs who cater for an exclusively adult clientele.
Once I have caught up with the blogs, I might write the company a letter of complaint for my own (and perhaps your) amusement.
[Edit: I have, and you can read it here. I managed to rewrite this in a far more tongue-in-cheek way for them.]
Above: The offending shirt. Photo: Mean Street Photography
Contrary to my other recent experiences, there were almost no flags to be seen in the 200-strong crowd. I caught up with my friend Lynne, Grant joined us, and we stood near the south-west corner of the square, listening to the speakers. Thanks to the length of cane I had elected to buy (and then been gifted), this saw me standing at 6-foot-2 with my arm raised, hand clasping a 4-foot flagpole – like some living Glaswegian Statue of Liberty.
I had thought the back of my shirt was popular photography matter, but this paled in comparison with the flag. There must have been two dozen snappers took photos of it – the camera-phone owners, the hobbyists, and the professionals. With a strong breeze that kept changing direction, I did what I could to aid their shots, trying to hold the flag at an angle where the wind would keep it flying straight and the wording visible. This worked with some degree of success, the downside being that in most of these pictures I am looking gormlessly up at the flag. I think I became the second-most photographed person in the UK today, the first being dead.
With all of the attention that it was receiving, I soon found myself approached by a two-person camera crew who asked if they could interview me for STV. I agreed, and they immediately asked my reasons for being here today. I answered as honestly as I could, making the pertinent points that leapt to mind and that I have detailed above. I know that I hesitated at times, and did not answer as eloquently or as articulately as I had when pressed (by the Scotland On Sunday) as to my involvement at the weekend’s Scrap Trident demo. In hindsight, I wish I had told them that the Bedroom Tax “does not affect me, and yet it does, as it affects us all” – inasmuch as it is to the detriment of the welfare state, it will cause untold rises in homelessness and crime, and will have other knock-on effects too. Their published report, with a handful of inaccuracies, is here.
They describe me by saying of the crowd “some [were] clinging to flags … criticising the Tories with scrawled expletives.” It may be an expletive, but you can clearly see from all of my photos that the word is censored, which was deliberate on my part precisely so that it could be shown or published in news reports. As for it being “scrawled,” that must be the neatest scrawl in the history of doctors’ signatures.
Photo: Lynne McKinstray
I thought I may be able to make my point about the tax to the circulating BBC crew, but they steadfastly avoided me twice – firstly to interview Lynne, and then to interview Grant. Sometimes, the BBC post on their site that they are looking for audiences for debate shows. These generally request that membership of any political organisation is made known, along with information about whether your mind is already made up on that specific issue. This is in their pursuit of balanced opinion, which has been sorely lacking in their sycophantic news coverage lately. I can only presume that they decided against interviewing me as my opinion was written firmly across my attire.
It turned out afterwards that it had been BBC Alba, so fuck it, no-one will ever see it anyway…
Above: Tommy Sheridan and posters naming the victims of Thatcher. Photo: Mean Street Photography
Tommy Sheridan was one of the speakers, and said what I wish more people in the public eye could have said recently:
“Some have said it is distasteful to celebrate the death of an old woman. And I was brought up to respect people, but it’s clear Mrs Thatcher did not respect us. She didn’t respect the workers she sacked, or the hunger strikers who died, when she was in power. We’re here to say ‘We don’t respect you either’. We won’t shed any crocodile tears over her death. But now we must look forward. Just as we united to fight Thatcher’s poll tax, I would urge you all to unite and fight Cameron’s bedroom tax as well.” – Source.
We left after the rest of the speeches, once the final musical act was on, and headed to a pub that was not the one I had been in earlier. Lynne and her friend were already there, having left before us, and as I sat down she brought up the potentially-offensive nature of my shirt. I called the barman over, showed it to him, and asked if it was okay if I continued to wear it in his pub.
He looked at me quizzically, smiled, and said that it was fine. Crisis averted.
Later, when I called into the nearby supermarket on my way home, someone else came up to me and smilingly told me “Great shirt! Be more assertive.”
Be more assertive.
I think that is the purpose of writing these blogs. I know that many of you are unhappy. I know that, at a basic level, most of us want to see the same things. Over on Facebook, I just read the gripe that “I’m still annoyed at £10m being spent wining and dining millionaires at MT’s funeral.”
If you are that annoyed, protest. Channel the anger. Show them they are not popular. If enough of us do it, they cannot deny us.
Photo: Mean Street Photography
At the time of writing, it is three weeks to the day since the Daily Record published my tweet and the story of the retweet that started this ball rolling. As it did not adequately convey the fulllness of my disillusionment, I have resorted to taking direct action where possible. I have decided to stand with my fellow countrymen and fight for the rights that our forefathers battled for; to strengthen the numbers of the disaffected taking to the streets and proving that there is a problem with this government and their policies. This problem can only be addressed if enough of us make our opposition heard.
It has been twenty-one days, and I have taken part in two marches, a hastily-arranged protest, and a rally. In that time, the items upon which I have written “Fuck The Tories” have been photographed at least a hundred times. I have been printed by the Record, photographed by the Record, interviewed for the Scotland On Sunday newspaper, and for Scottish Television. Maybe it is because I stand out that people think I have something to say. I don’t want to stand out.
I don’t want to stand out, because I don’t want to be the only one proclaiming these views. I want, in the spirit of the original punk movement, a growing number of people to join me – physically, and in wearing their contempt for all in the street to see.
I will continue to demonstrate where and when I can, because I believe that we are in the right. I believe that we can make a difference. There is strength in numbers. I did not get here overnight, I got here when years of anger forced me to take action.
If you are angry too, then I hope you will soon join me. One way or another, we can change this.
April 18, 2013 | Categories: Absurd, Axe The Tax, Bar, Bedroom Tax, Complaint, Conversation, Customer Service, Diary Of An Anti-Tory Protestor, Dole, Drinking, Facebook, Fight, Flag, Fuck The Tories, George Square, Glasgow, Glasgow City Council, Helpful, History, Housing Benefit, Humour, Jobcentre, Life, Money, Photograph, Politics, Poverty Line, Protest, Pub, Scotland, Scottish, Scrap Trident, Social Media, Street, Twitter, Work, Workfare, World, Writing | Tags: Bad Attitude, Bar Manager, BBC, BBC Alba, Conservative, Daily Record, David Cameron, David Cameron Is A Cunt, Evening Times, Flagpole, Glaswegian, Iain Duncan Smith, IDS, Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, MSP, Museum, Napoleon, Parliament, Pinochet, Ravenscraig, Remember Thatcher's Victims, Scotland On Sunday, Scottish Government, Scottish Independence, Scottish parliament, Scottish Television, Statue Of Liberty, STV, That Cunt Cameron, Thatcherism, The Stripper, Tommy Sheridan, Victims of Thatcher, Vote Yes, Yes Scotland | Leave a comment
I’m back to being a sign-writer for the broo. It can’t last, because if I’m not working I will lose my flat, and sooner rather than later.
I don’t particularly like being unemployed at the best of times, and especially not now that – due to cuts in Housing Benefit – I face being made homeless as the shortfall in rent cannot be made up from the pittance that is JSA.
I’m not trying to get something for nothing, to be abundantly clear. These benefits are there for anyone who is entitled, to help them while they get back on their feet. When I’m working, I pay into the system like everyone else. I just want the record to show that this is what they are doing – making people homeless to “save” a few quid, and then forking out hundreds or thousands more to have them rehoused in hostels and the like.
As I have said before, my rent is set so high because that is (previously) the maximum that the council would pay. The private landlords set their rent accordingly, to claim as much as they could. Now that amount has been lowered, it is the tenants who are liable for the difference – regardless of circumstance.
These governmental cuts are not working. They are stigmatising hard-working people who suffer from an absence of employment opportunities, amplify social and housing issues, and cost far more money than they save.
ABOVE: This Jobcentre is so lacking in jobs to advertise, it has been permanently closed and all fixtures and fittings removed. Argyle Street, Glasgow, December 2012.
As my temporary employment has just come to an end, earlier than I hoped, I find myself having to contact the DWP to submit a new claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Previous experience has made me aware that it involves a 45-minute phonecall, and so it was not possible to call up at the end of last week – in advance of my contract ending – as my half hour lunch break wouldn’t permit enough time. Instead, I waited until today, Monday, to call them.
I reached an automated system that told me I should apply online, and that online applications are given priority over telephone applications. Had I known that, I would have submitted my claim at the weekend. Annoyed, I hung up and loaded their page.
It advised I would need 30-60 minutes to complete it, and so I made my lunch before starting, figuring it might time out halfway through if I paused for any reason. When I came to start, I got an error message telling me it had already timed out – prior to me typing a single thing – and to close my browser and start again. This was a pain in the arse, not least because I had half a dozen other tabs open.
I tried opening a separate window, but it became clear I would indeed need to close everything to begin again. On the second attempt, I got as far as a request for some details that I figured I could find through my online banking. Opening a second tab crashed my browser so thoroughly and so spectacularly that a full system restart was required.
Having now wasted a full hour, I called them up.
“Please state your postcode,” the automated cunt asked me. It took four goes before she gave in and made me listen to – I can never remember if it is Greensleeves or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but either way I am fucking sick of hearing it. Finally, my call was connected to a live human.
“I tried to do this online, and it has thoroughly crashed my computer” I told him.
He laughed, and said he would try to help me.
I asked him why he was laughing, and very angry Jordan elicited an apology. I relented, as angry as I was, since I did need his help and a terminated call would see me back at square one. It was already every bit as painful an experience as I had expected.
He took a note of where I was at the point the site crashed, and said he is not unfamiliar with this complaint. So, there you go – there is an awareness that the online system, which “will be given priority,” crashes fully before completion of the form.
I figured, again from experience, that my details would be taken and the form sent to me to verify and sign. Then I would get an appointment at the local Jobcentre to go and discuss the work I am looking for. At this point, I will consider any work that pays. This process usually takes a few days, and as calls were dealt with less quickly, I anticipated an interview date later in the week.
“We have an appointment in five minutes,” he said, and half-joked “How fast can you get there?”
As it happens, the local office is round the corner from me. Taking into account a roundabout and the supermarket carpark, it is about 7 minutes’ walk.
“I can book you in for half-three,” he offered, proceeding to race through the scripted terms and conditions so that I would have time to grab the necessary ID and paperwork before heading out the door.
And that’s what happened. The lower-priority phone application saw me allotted a slot scheduled for twenty minutes after the call ended.
The high-priority website wasted an hour of my time and gubbed my laptop.
This is indicative of a system so inherently broken it is very difficult to imagine how it may ever be fixed. It is, however, hard to fathom that further cutbacks and not investment is the answer.
In the meantime, if you know of any full-time work going in the Glasgow area, I will be very happy to hear from you.
Finally, if you get the chance to punch Cameron, Clegg, or Osborne in the face, please do so. Unrelentingly.
As for Iain Duncan-Smith – he has put the “cunt” in this country. I hope they are all held accountable when the rioting inevitably starts.
January 7, 2013 | Categories: Absurd, Complaint, Contract, Customer Service, Fuck The Tories, Glasgow, Glasgow City Council, Helpful, Housing Benefit, Jobcentre, Life, Poverty Line, Scotland, Work, Workfare, World | Tags: Allowance, Austerity, Broo, Cameron, Clegg, Conservatives, Cutbacks, David Cameron Is A Cunt, Deprivation, DWP, George Osborne, Homeless, Homelessness, Hostel, Iain Duncan Smith, IDS, Jobcentre, Jobseeker, JSA, Lib Dems, Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, Osborne, Riots, Shelter, Social Housing, Tories | 2 Comments